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March 12, 1987

THE LONDON EVENING STANDARD
Faith in progress

When the end credits roll on THE KILLING FLOOR (Cert 15: 118 mins) they must carry the name of very labour union in America, and some overseas, too.

All of them divvied up to make this splendid looking and stirring film--the very drip feed of financial faith.

It's rewarded not just by a historically true record of a violent era of social and racial struggle in America--but in human terms, too, in fascinatingly recreated period reality, in performances that combine political faith with artistic force, in a story the like of which mainline Hollywood hasn't tackled since the humanist talents of Kazan, Huston, Ray and Jules Dassin were ousted by Spielberg's juvenilia or arias to Stallone's narcissism.

Put simply, it's the story a man's divided loyalty--to his race (which is black) or his class (which is working).

Frank Custer (Damien Leake), a young black Southern sharecropper, quits wife and family, the crickets in the night and the rooster that wakes him at dawn, for World War One's top wages in the Zola-esque world of blood and guts on "the killing floor" of the Chicago abattoirs.

At first Frank's view is self-serving: he's come for the money and resists the union activists' attempts to recruit him. But the migrant's religious evangelism eventually lures him into the militant ranks of immigrants from Eastern Europe. read more>>
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